I’m a big believer in the power of ritual. When you do something over and over, you start to anticipate the feelings you’ll have. So when it comes to our relationships, it’s important to have rituals that make us feel emotionally connected. Perhaps even more importantly, they create the expectation of being emotionally connected, which is half the battle.
So here goes:1) Hellos and goodbyes.
This one might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how often couples get caught up in other things and forget to really mark the moments of separation and reunion. We’re in the middle of cooking dinner when our partner comes home, so what difference does it make if we give him or her a hello kiss?
I’d argue a significant difference. People like to feel like they’ll be missed, and they like to feel like someone appreciates that they’re back. It’s what home is all about, right?
2) A nightly way to reconnect.
It can be verbal or non-verbal. I know a lot of couples watch TV together because they’re tired from the day. But there are ways to watch that feel more emotionally connected than others. It might be about what you choose to watch (whether it’s something you both look forward to, for example, and want to talk about afterwards) or about physical positions (whether you cuddle or are more distant.) It can be about both being fully present, as opposed to texting other people, thinking about work, or doing something else at the same time.
My husband and I have what we call our book club. We take turns reading aloud to each other while snuggling, and it always creates a good feeling. Though I have to admit, we don’t do it as regularly as we should, which I guess puts me in the category of those who can’t do, teach. But it’s still good advice, I swear!
3) Find a particular spot and deem it yours. Then go there routinely.
It’s interesting how just the act of declaring something special imbues it with a certain glow. It could be a place where you love the people-watching, or where you love the serenity of the view. It could be a bar or a restaurant where you’ve had good times previously. But just the reminiscence of previous happiness will cast a positive expectation which, again, is the point.
4) Turn off all outside devices for a designated period of time. Do this multiple times a week.
This is a declaration that your time with your partner is precious and should be protected. Sometimes our relationship is so primary that we take it for granted. We assume that we are so connected with our partner that we can weather interruptions.
Maybe we can. But should we?
I’d argue no. Sometimes the rest of the world has to recede and become background so that your relationship is foreground. This sends an important message to your partner, but also validates the bond internally. On some level, if you’ve prioritized it, you remind yourself of its value. That’ll pay dividends.
5) When it comes to sex, ritualize the creation of a sensual space.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have quickies. It doesn’t mean that sex has to be choreographed and predetermined. But so many couples turn sex into a routine in the negative sense of the word. So I’m talking instead about ritual.
That involves prioritizing, and leaving ample time and space. Setting the mood doesn’t have to be candles and flowers, though that’s a positive association many of us have so it’s worth trying to tap into. Think about yourselves as a couple, and what’s historically led to the most fulfilling intimacy. Then turn that into a ritual, with all the expectations that go along with it.
** If you or someone you know is struggling in their marriage, contact Aspen Counseling Services to schedule a Couples Initial Assessment.